POSITIVE MEALTIMES FOR BUSY FAMILIES
Ahuva Magder Hershkop, a mom of almost three year old twins, is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in pediatric nutrition, and is the owner of Arm Yourself Dietetics. Her focus is working with families to reduce mealtime stress, supporting positive family mealtimes and supporting mothers in reducing the mental load of feeding their families. Her mission is to empower parents to create mealtimes that are spent fostering positive relationships with food, instead of counting bites, with the understanding that there is no right way to feed your family – there is only the way that works for YOUR family.
In this episode:
- Mealtimes can be a time of family connection but they can also create stress and overwhelm.
- “Good Enough” family mealtimes are about division of responsibility and are not about perfection.
- Having a list of “Oh No” meals in our back pocket, for those days when we realize that we have nothing planned for dinner, can be a game changer.
Connect with Ahuva:
Join Ahuva’s Facebook Group: “The Busy Moms Guide to Feeding Your Family” where you will get valuable information from Ahuva and an amazing community of support from over 2000 members!
On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a fantastic conversation with Ahuva about the wins and challenges of family meals, “Good Enough” family mealtimes, and how having a list of “Oh No” meals can be a tool to alleviate stress and overwhelm when we realize that it is dinner time and that we don’t have a plan!
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 14 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
Ahuva is so relatable and easy to talk to. She and I had a wonderful conversation! Ahuva recognizes that we need to do what works best for us. I love that she keeps things real in talking about the challenges that we can experience with family meals as part of our mom life and work life juggle. Ahuva has some practical and easy to implement strategies that can reduce the overwhelm that many of us face when we are trying to come up with meal ideas and trying to get meals on the table.
WHY CAN MEALTIME BE SO DIFFICULT FOR FAMILIES
Ahuva talks about how families are busy. Oftentimes, there just aren’t big windows of time to prepare meals. As well, in the age of social media, there is information overload about the “right” way to feel our families and many images of perfection. When parents do put in the time to make what seems to be an amazing meal, sometimes the kids don’t like what has been prepared.
COVID-19 AND MEAL TIME
With many parents now working from home, in some cases, meal times have been less hectic. Prior to COVID, one or both parents may have been working outside the home, or one parent may have worked long hours or travelled for work which meant that family dinners were limited to week-ends or even once a week or, in some cases, once a month. As well, with extracurricular activities on hold, families aren’t currently running around to dance classes, hockey practices, and music lessons. During this time, many families are having more family meals than they would have otherwise. This means that meals can be an opportunity for time together.
However, in families dealing with mealtime battles and picky eating, they might be finding that this time amplifies this. Stress tends to make things more challenging for families in general. As well, parents feel like they are spending all their time in the kitchen more than ever. This has impacted a lot of families negatively.
“GOOD ENOUGH” FAMILY MEALTIMES
Ahuva talks about how there is so much pressure out there to be perfect. We have access to information at the tip of our fingers. We see social media images of amazing looking meals and we find ourselves wanting to put these on the table. Sometimes preparing a meal takes hours and hours. Then, when the meal gets to the table, one person doesn’t like this and one person doesn’t like that. This can result in everyone being stressed and us feeling that our efforts aren’t appreciated.
1. DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY
Eating a balanced meal is not necessarily going to happen every night. In the field of nutrition, there is the ‘division of responsibility’. This means that it is your job as a parent to focus only on what you serve. What’s going to be dinner? How are you going to present it? When are you going to eat? There isn’t a right answer to any of these questions. It is what works for your family. Once the food is on the table, then, your job as the parent is done. What your kids choose to eat is not your responsibility.
2. GOOD ENOUGH; NOT PERFECT
If dinner is chicken, rice, and broccoli and your child only eats the rice, that is okay. It is good enough that they find something on the table that they can eat. If the meal has three food groups and it was thrown together really quickly, that’s good enough. A tuna sandwich and sliced vegetables is just as good as a roast dinner with mashed potatoes. Ask yourself, “Do I need to be doing this?”.
Ahuva loves being in the kitchen. For her, 90% of family meal time is about how much she enjoys preparing meals and 10% is about her family eating it. However, on those crazy days, this just doesn’t happen. She makes something that is simple and straightforward. Everyone is fed. Everyone is happy. That’s really the idea of letting yourself off the hook. Remember what is your responsibility and what’s not. It doesn’t have to be beautiful to be acceptable.
“OH NO” MEALS
Ahuva suggests making a list of “Oh No” meals that work well for your family. “Oh no” meals are things that are easy to prepare and that you know go over well for your family. Even if you have been home all day, sometimes time can get away from you. In these cases, dinner could be tuna and crackers, scrambled eggs, or macaroni and cheese. By having a list of “Oh No” meals in your back pocket, you avoid starting to go down the rabbit hole of “Oh no – I don’t have anything for dinner!” which can easily get us into a cycle of mom guilt. By doing a little bit of planning, this tends to take the pressure off.
DO IT YOURSELF MEALS
Ahuva is a huge fan of do-it-yourself meals such as “make your own pizza” or “make your own burrito bowls” (beans, rice, meat, and veggies). Ahuva’s kids love the idea that they get to put their meal together in their own way. Ahuva loves this as a great way to use leftovers, such as grilled vegetables, in a new way especially later in the week.
THE FEAR OF JUDGEMENT
As a new mom, Ahuva found the adjustment from zero children to two to be quite overwhelming! It felt like everyone else had it all together. She also felt like she had to do everything the ‘right’ way and for herself otherwise she would be judged. Now, she feels like she does things not because of what other people might think but rather what is and what is not important to her.
Ahuva shared a story about being out with her twins, who were potty trained, where she decided that she didn’t need to bring her giant diaper bag with her. However, her daughter had an accident. Thankfully, Ahuva had brought one change of clothes. But… then, her daughter had another accident. A quick fix was taking her son’s and daughter’s sweatshirts and tying them both around her daughter’s waist; one covering the front and one covering the back. Ahuva says this situation reminded her to be prepared for the unexpected. No matter what, your kids will always surprise you!
“WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING… YOU ARE DOING GREAT.”
Ahuva reminds us that with whatever we are doing, we are doing great. There is so much pressure on us to do things a certain way or the ‘right’ way. We need to do things in a way that works best for us and our families. There is a lot to juggle in our work life and family life. Ask yourself what is important to you. There are so many “shoulds” in terms of how to do things, how to keep our houses, and how to feed our kids. As a mom, trying to do it all and to live up to everybody else’s expectations can be very overwhelming. For example, Ahuva has asked herself, “Am I doing this for me or am I doing this because my mom used to do this?”. Reflecting on these things can be very powerful.
Thanks so much to Ahuva for this wonderful conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!